Why Mass Boston students and staff are protesting the chancellor’s inauguration

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

By Colette Lauture

A group of staff and students at the University of Massachusetts Boston planned to demonstrate Friday morning during the new chancellor of the school’s inauguration.

The “unified coalition” was scheduled to gather at 10:30 a.m. outside the Clark Athletic Center in objection to the inauguration of Chancellor Marcelo Suárez-Orozco. The ceremony was supposed to begin at 11 a.m.

In a statement, the group said Friday’s action revolves around “calling for accountability, transparency, and the immediate end to the university’s attempts at dismantling the power of its community initiatives.” The coalition claims Suárez-Orozco is not able to acknowledge the demands posed by different student and faculty organizations.

This protest comes about two weeks after three UMass Boston Africana Studies faculty members filed complaints with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination. GBH reported the faculty alleged that UMass Boston leadership has been hostile to their department, shown racial bias, and intimidated and retaliated against those who drew attention to structural racism there.

“The ongoing assault against the Africana Studies Department, an invaluable pillar of UMass Boston’s liberal arts college, has revealed the administration’s true colors and represents a tipping point in the university’s consistent, years-long repression of community voices,” the coalition also said in their statement.

The group planning the protest listed five formal demands, including a formal meeting with Suárez-Orozco by May 1.

Suárez-Orozco assumed the role of chancellor back in August 2020, after leaving a position at the University of California, Los Angeles. An inaugural celebration was not possible during the pandemic’s height; he told the Boston Globe recently he decided to postpone any inaugural events to happen at the same time as the completion of major construction projects on campus.